Five College Consortium

Choral Festival features world premiere, new take on Emerson poem

A favorite cultural event of the area returns this month when the Five College Choral Festival takes the stage at Smith College for the first time since 2012. The Festival brings together more than 375 choir members from the five campuses who, after performing in their campus groups, will take part in the world premiere of a new composition by award-winning Amherst College composer Eric Sawyer.

Choral Festival singersThe festival, which takes place at 7:30 pm Saturday, February 21 at Smith College’s John M. Greene Hall, is free and open to the public.

This year’s festival will feature a dozen groups drawn from Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Each group will first take the stage alone, performing work ranging from spirituals to folk to world music. (See the full list of groups below.)

In the show’s climax, with UMass director of choral studies Tony Thornton conducting, all choir members will together sing Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Concord Hymn.” At the invitation of the Five College choral directors, Amherst College Professor of Music Eric Sawyer composed the music for the Emerson poem, which was first read, and then sung, after the completion of the Concord Monument in Concord, Massachusetts on July 4, 1837.

“Getting to compose for several hundred voices is a rare opportunity, and I wanted to choose a text that would speak in a suitably public way,” says Sawyer. “Emerson's ‘Concord Hymn,’ with its famous ‘shot heard round the world’ speaks with such a voice. The work is currently being rehearsed separately across the five campuses, and the assembly of these carefully prepared parts into a super-chorus for the Smith performance should be a truly exciting moment.”

The following ensembles will be participating:

Amherst College Concert Choir
Amherst College Glee Club
Amherst College Madrigal Singers
Amherst College Women’s Chorus
Hampshire College Chorus
Mount Holyoke College Chamber Singers
Mount Holyoke College Chorale
Mount Holyoke College Glee Club
Smith College Chorus
Smith College Glee Club
University of Massachusetts Amherst Chamber Choir
University of Massachusetts Amherst Chorale

The following choral directors will be conducting:

Joseph Baldwin, Smith College
Mallorie Chernin, Amherst College
Elaine Broad Ginsberg, Hampshire College
Jonathan Hirsh, Smith College
Stephen A. Paparo, UMass Amherst
Lindsay Pope, Mount Holyoke College
Tony Thornton, UMass Amherst